It may be the preseason, but it is football anyway!
The Pittsburgh Steelers got their first taste of real football this season and came away with a decent 27-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday.
Now is the portion when we decide which of the players stood out above the rest. While there were many to choose from, here are the players we believe had the greatest impact.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander
Minus the unnecessary roughness penalty (which was a bad call to begin with), linebacker Kwon Alexander was arguably the most impactful player for the Steelers yesterday. From the first series on, he made his presence felt with his timely, high-impact tackles. If one were to watch him play, it would be evident that he's the type of player who enjoys contact and plays with high intensity. Before the first half ended, he had already collected three tackles, two of them for losses. With all the criticism the inside linebackers have received this offseason, he is one that could help silence all doubters this season.
Receiver Calvin Austin III
The saying "speed kills" is very much the truth, as the Buccaneers found out in the third quarter. If one were to rewind his 67-yard touchdown, all Austin III needed was a few strides, and he had his man completely beat. When a player has that type of speed, it makes life difficult for defensive coordinators because they are forced to adjust the schematics. Austin III's speed and ball skills will likely get the attention of opposing teams quickly. He led all Steelers receivers with 73 yards and made quarterback Mason Rudolph look good in the process. He is a player that everyone should know right now because he has star potential.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett
One series. That's all it took for second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett to confirm that he was the best quarterback in this game. On that drive, he went 6-for-7 for 70 yards and a touchdown to receive George Pickens. Not much else needs to be said other than that he is ready to make the rest of the NFL take notice of how great he can be.
Defensive Lineman DeMarvin Leal
Considering how much he has struggled to stay healthy during this training camp, Leal redeemed himself in this game as the team's most active player on defense, next to Alexander. What should be noted is how effective he was when he aligned in 3-technique; his shared sack with rookie Nick Herbig in the third quarter was an example of that. With Leal, the Steelers have a versatile, athletic defender that can affect the game in a multitude of ways. If he can stay healthy, he could become a vital component of an excellent defensive unit.